A Critique of the Use of the ‘Neet' Category
On the basis of empirical data collected in Switzerland within the framework of the NCCR Lives project (http://www.lives-nccr.ch/en), we shall first attempt to understand what the use of the NEET category is founded upon : we shall show that it is based on two tenets. One is of a social nature, founded upon the fact this age group is the most affected by unemployment; the other is of a moral nature, resting on the idea that any unemployment at all in this age group is a problem. We will show that the field of political controversy around these tenets has clear borders (Bourdieu, 2012) and that it mostly centres on whether various measures should be imposed or not, whilst there is complete agreement on the category itself.
We will then show that street-level bureaucrats dealing with youth unemployment endorse the official normativity about NEET. 44 ot them have been asked to identify and precisely describe three situations that they consider as emblematic of their interventions toward unemployed youth people; hence, more than 150 such situations have been collected and allow investigating how the past, present and future stages of the beneficiaries’ life course interact within them. The data show that their normative figure is the employed adult and that they see NEET as people in need of socialization.
In conclusion, we will show that the NEET category is founded upon a linear and androcentric representation of the life course (education–training-employment-retirement) (Levy, Gauthier, & Widmer, 2006) which not only subsumes very different social universes into chronological categories (Bourdieu, 1984, Yates & Payne, 2006), but tends to deny the importance of power relationships founded upon age.